Results of Grant-Funded Cases


The Barbara McDowell Foundation has supported since 2011 the litigation of 56 social justice cases with over one million dollars in grants to 40 organizations. While the causes benefiting from these litigation efforts have varied, they all have been in support of the overarching mission of the Barbara McDowell Foundation: to improve the economic well-being, social conditions, and civil liberties of disadvantaged persons in the United States.

The following results, organized by issue area, highlights the impact of the cases that the Foundation has funded demonstrating the amazing work of our grantees. 

Click on each issue area below to see the results of the Foundation's grant-funded cases.

You can also click the link below to read the Foundation's Tenth-Anniversary Special Report on the Results of our Grant-Funded Cases.  

SPECIAL REPORT

   

Access to Benefits +

Withholding or delaying the payment of public benefits, such as food stamps to the poor, or doing so on a discriminatory basis, causes human suffering for which litigation is often the only recourse.

The following grantees filed lawsuits in order to correct those injustices. 

Legal Services, Alabama (2018)

The results of the Foundation grant to Legal Services, Alabama was that a successful suit was filed against the Alabama Department of Human Resources for implementing a law which limited the ability of “able-bodied” adults to receive food stamps thereby removing thousands of people from the food stamps roll.  The suit also challenged the Department’s failure to give notice of the termination of food stamp benefits.  Shammyane Nettles v. Alabama Department of Human Resources

The suit resulted in the reinstatement of benefits and systematic changes that would foreclose the problem from happening again in the future.

Michael Forton, Director of Advocacy: “Receiving support from the Barbara McDowell Foundation helped us to provide assistance to many people beyond just our individual clients.”

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports. 

National Center for Law and Economic Justice (2011, 2012, and 2016 )

Below are the results of the Foundation's support for three National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ) cases litigating on behalf of access to public benefits. 

2011 Grant 

Undertook successful enforcement of a consent decree it had obtained against the State of Colorado to ensure the rights of low-income people to have access to food stamps, Medicaid, and child health benefits in a timely manner. As a result of the state’s delays in processing applications, tens of thousands of eligible households could not access food aid and medical benefits. Continued monitoring occurred until 2017 when the State achieved the timely processing of food stamps and other benefits. Davis v. Hennebury

“With the support from the Foundation, tens of thousands of low-income households gained access to subsistence benefits necessary to sustain life and health,” said the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.


2012 Grant

Negotiated changes in access to Medicaid benefits in Hawaii where low-income persons were experiencing long delays in processing their applications and obtained adjustments to the State’s recertification procedures so that families did not have to submit repeated applications in order to access health benefits.

As a result of these efforts, the State dramatically improved its ability to process new Medicaid applications. Booth v. Koller

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.


2016 Grant

Obtained a preliminary and permanent injunction against the State of Connecticut on behalf of low-income people to enforce their rights to food stamps. Because of unjustified denials and delays in processing food stamp applications 40% of the eligible households in Connecticut could not access food stamps in a timely manner leaving families going hungry for weeks and months.  Extensive discovery occurred in the case after which the district judge ordered the parties to utilize experts to negotiate a remedy.

Subsequently, in March of 2017 the district court approved a comprehensive class action settlement.  Briggs v. Bremby

“At the beginning of the litigation, Connecticut was last in the nation in terms of the timely processing of food stamps.  Now, it is in the forefront of delivering food stamps to households in a manner that will help them put food on the table,” said Greg Bass, Senior Attorney.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest (2015)

Utilized their grant funds to file a class suit against the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for failure to process food stamps within the 30-day federally mandated timeframe thereby disadvantaging hundreds of households. Leiting-Hall v. Philips

After the class was certified settlement occurred whereby the Department agreed to process 96% of the applications within 30 days and provide monthly reports to Nebraska Appleseed! 

“The Barbara McDowell Foundation’s support gave us the capacity to engage in extensive discovery  and see the case through a long period of settlement negotiations so that thousands of Nebraskans have access to food stamp benefits that they need,” said Molly McCleery, staff attorney.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.  

North Carolina Justice Center (2016)

Filed suit on behalf of migrant farmworkers not being paid properly by labor contractors who brought foreign workers to fill temporary agricultural jobs. The contractors did not properly report hours worked and required workers to pay the costs of their visas and transportation to the United States. 

The case was resolved and has helped to deter other labor contractors from using similar practices.  Gallegos Gallegos v. Becerra Enterprises 

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Public Justice Center (2012)

Reports the positive settlement of their suit to compel Maryland’s Department of Human Resources to comply with the time limit requirements for processing Medicaid benefits for disabled and blind persons. At the time of the settlement, there were over 9,000 delayed cases. The named plaintiff in the case was waiting over 233 days for an eligibility determination! Magee-Kern v. Dallas

Executive Director John Nethercut said, “The Barbara McDowell Foundation grant enabled our Health Rights project staff to prioritize a time-sensitive case and push it to a speedy resolution that benefitted many thousands of low-income Marylanders waiting for vital health care.”

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Children’s Rights +

Children suffering abuse and neglect must often rely upon litigation to secure protection and to afford them their basic constitutional rights.

The Foundation made grants supporting the following cases aimed at protecting children.

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (2018)

As result of their grant they filed suit asserting that the State of Georgia is discriminating against disabled children by not placing them alongside non-disabled children in public schools in violation of federal law. This still ongoing case will have significant impact in Georgia and the approximately 5,200 students with disabilities residing in Georgia on behalf of whom this suit was filed. The Georgia Advocacy Office v. State of Georgia

Legal Director Ira Burnim states, “The grant from the Barbara McDowell Foundation allowed us to make a significant investment in the case, allowing it to move forward, including recruiting a team of impressive experts."

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Children’s Advocacy Institute at University of San Diego School of Law (2018)

As a result of their Barbara McDowell Foundation Grant, Children's Advocacy Institute filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in February 2019 seeking certification of a class of more than 5,000 children for declaratory and injunctive relief that would require appointment of licensed attorneys to represent children in Child in Need of Services proceedings. The Children’s Advocacy Institute and its co-counsel have provided expert declarations on the constitutional basis for the need for counsel.

Trial is scheduled to commence in December 2020. Nicole K. v. Marion County, Lake County, and Scott County, Indiana  

“The Foundation’s support enabled us to lay the groundwork for this critically important lawsuit—which if successful, will ensure that all of the nation’s abused and neglected children are represented by legal counsel in  judicial proceedings,” said Executive Director Robert C. Fellmeth, Price Professor of Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law.  

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.  


Children's Rights (2015, 2016, and 2018 )

Received support for three cases on behalf of disadvantaged children and reported the following positive developments in each suit. 

2015 Grant

Concluded a successful suit challenging abusive practices in Texas’ foster care system where children languish for long periods prior to adoption or reunification with their birth family. A federal district court order, affirmed by the Court of Appeals, required the state agency to reduce caseloads, investigate abuse and neglect claims, and increase capacity for foster care placements. M.D. v. Abbott

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.


2016 Grant

Received class certification approval in a case against the State of Arizona for failing to investigate reports of abuse and neglect in foster care, to provide health services to the children, and to recruit sufficient foster home placements. The Court of Appeals affirmed class certification and the case is back at district court for trial. B.K. v. McKay Since its filing the case has received press coverage in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.


2018 Grant

Reached a settlement in a class action suit brought against the State of Missouri with respect to limiting the dispensing of psychotropic drugs to children in foster care.  The settlement, which was the first of its kind, requires medication monitoring, secondary review of medications by psychiatrists, and staff training. M.B. v. Tidball Extensive media coverage occurred in nearly 50 publications, including a story by the Associated Press.

“Children’s Rights is grateful to the Barbara McDowell Foundation for providing support that led to serious oversight improvements to protect kid’s health and safety,” said Sandy Santana, Executive Director.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.


Disability Rights North Carolina (2017)

Reported results in the litigation they brought concerning the treatment of children with complex mental health issues residing in North Carolina state institutions and eligible to receive services under Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment provisions. The suit alleged that these children had an intellectual disability and mental health diagnosis that, because of failures by the State, resulted in cyclical hospitalizations, long-term institutionalization in psychiatric facilities, or going without services.  

The case was settled successfully with the State agreeing to develop and implement a process to identify children with complex needs to link them to diagnostic testing and appropriate services.  Disability Rights N.C. v. Brajer

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports


Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights (2013)

As a result of their Foundation grant Louisiana Center for Children's Rights was able to file suit in a case against the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice on behalf of incarcerated children alleging the denial of counsel to children to enable them to protest violent and inhumane conditions. Despite its pending status, the litigation is effectively serving to improve conditions and provide proper access to counsel.  R.B. v. Dr. Mary Rivers   

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.  

National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (2019)

Reports the successful results in a case brought in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at the Berks County Detention Center. The suit claimed that detained immigrant children suffered serious deprivations related to health services, mental health care, and language access, as well as traumatic night-checks that repeatedly interrupt children’s sleep. 

Families detained at the facility will now be able to file a petition to intervene in the state licensing dispute brought against the detention center and have their voice heard for the first time.  Doe v. Mici

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Disability Rights +

Those facing physical and mental challenges often need litigation to combat discrimination in order to secure and protect the same fundamental rights available to the general population. 

Protecting the rights of disabled individuals formed the basis for the following grantees to rectify serious deprivations.

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (2018)

As result of their grant they filed suit asserting that the State of Georgia is discriminating against disabled children by not placing them alongside non-disabled children in public schools in violation of federal law. This still ongoing case will have significant impact in Georgia and the approximately 5,200 students with disabilities residing in Georgia on behalf of whom this suit was filed. The Georgia Advocacy Office v. State of Georgia

Legal Director Ira Burnim states, “The grant from the Barbara McDowell Foundation allowed us to make a significant investment in the case, allowing it to move forward, including recruiting a team of impressive experts."

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Disability Rights North Carolina (2017)

Reported results in the litigation they brought concerning the treatment of children with complex mental health issues residing in North Carolina state institutions and eligible to receive services under Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment provisions. The suit alleged that these children had an intellectual disability and mental health diagnosis that, because of failures by the State, resulted in cyclical hospitalizations, long-term institutionalization in psychiatric facilities, or going without services.  

The case was settled successfully with the State agreeing to develop and implement a process to identify children with complex needs to link them to diagnostic testing and appropriate services.  Disability Rights N.C. v. Brajer

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports


Florida Institutional Legal Services (2014)

Reported the positive results of their Foundation funded case partnering with other Florida-based justice advocacy organizations in helping inmates with severe and persistent psychiatric disabilities get the treatment they need. The negotiated deal that was the result of a multiyear investigation into several deaths, including suicides, within Florida prisons. 

Under the terms of the settlement the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) will have to provide individually tailored treatments to mentally ill inmates and enact policies that increase the amount of time these inmates spend outside of their cells in therapeutic activities. In addition, the FDC agreed to provide more training to its medical providers and security staff working with mentally ill patients.

“We are honored and fortunate to have received critical support from the Foundation. On behalf of our organization and the many thousands of people who have benefitted from the work made possible by your support, we thank you for the strategic investments you have made in high impact advocacy across the country,” Christopher M. Jones, Executive Director.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Public Justice Center (2012)

Reports the positive settlement of their suit to compel Maryland’s Department of Human Resources to comply with the time limit requirements for processing Medicaid benefits for disabled and blind persons. At the time of the settlement, there were over 9,000 delayed cases. The named plaintiff in the case was waiting over 233 days for an eligibility determination! Magee-Kern v. Dallas

Executive Director John Nethercut said, “The Barbara McDowell Foundation grant enabled our Health Rights project staff to prioritize a time-sensitive case and push it to a speedy resolution that benefitted many thousands of low-income Marylanders waiting for vital health care.”

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Discrimination +

Denying the basic and fundamental rights of persons in protected groups provided for by the Constitution and Statutes perpetuates inequality that often only litigation can remedy.

Litigating to obtain constitutional rights for a protected group formed the basis for the following grantees' cases.

National Center for Law and Economic Justice (2019)

As a result of their Barbara McDowell Foundation grant, National Center for Law and Economic Justice brought a class action lawsuit suit to redress and reform unconstitutional police ticketing practices by the Buffalo Police Department which had conducted thousands of “traffic safety” stops at police checkpoints overwhelmingly concentrated in low- income communities of color to generate revenue for the City. 

The litigation continues with wide-based community support seeking to change the Buffalo Police Department’s discriminatory ticketing practices. Black Love Resists in the Rust v. City of Buffalo

“Turning around the Buffalo Police Department is a herculean task, but one we must undertake to advance racial and economic justice in New York,” said Claudia Wilner, Director of Litigation and Advocacy.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Sargent Shriver National Center of Poverty Law (2017 and 2018)

Was supported by Foundation grants in two separate cases addressing both housing and discrimination. They report the following successful case results: 

2017 Grant

Suit in 2017 against the Alexander County Housing Authority for discrimination in assignment of public housing units based on race, where African Americans were placed in inferior units needing repair.  Paul Lambert v. Alexander County Housing Authority 

While settlement terms are not authorized to be disclosed publicly, the Shriver Center views the settlement to be strong and a positive outcome for their clients and provide a model for advocacy for similar cases across the country. 

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports


2018 Grant

Suit challenging the enforcement of a local “chronic nuisance ordinance” aimed at predominantly African American neighborhoods, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and Illinois Civil Rights Act. Case is set for trial in July 2020.

The lawsuit claims that African Americans face eviction for conduct that does not result in the eviction of whites. Hope Fair Housing Center v. City of Peoria

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Domestic Violence +

Domestic violence deprives the abused of human dignity and mental and emotional safety necessitating litigation to vindicate the oppressed, incarcerate the abusers, and rectify the harm.

Litigating to correct the harm caused by domestic violence served as the basis for the cases of the following grantees.

Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (2011)

Represented, in two instances, a mother appealing to the D.C. Court of Appeals an award of joint legal and physical custody to her batterer. E.J. v. D.J. (1&2)

The case briefs are recognized by national experts as effective training tools for attorneys representing and protecting battered mothers. 

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Legal Voice (2015)

Reported results in their unique suit on behalf of a woman, an Iraq war veteran, who had been abused by her former spouse. The plaintiff sought services from the Washington State Department of Social Services, which instead of assisting her, took custody of her son and garnished her veteran’s benefits.  Viklund v Department of Social and Health Services

The case settled with the State providing her an extremely large cash settlement and with an agreement by the State to review its procedures relating to victims of partner violence. 

“We could not have done this work without the generous assistance of the Barbara McDowell Foundation, which is known for its commitment to social justice and the rights of all people to equal justice under the law,” Lisa M. Stone, Executive Director. 

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Homelessness +

A society that ignores the rights of its least fortunate is not a just society so that litigation becomes often the only mechanism available to ensure that those rights are not trammeled upon.

Protecting the constitutional rights of nonprofit organizations serving homeless persons formed the basis of one grant.

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (2012)

Reports the successful results of the litigation they brought under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act against the City of Dallas with respect to its local law preventing religious organizations from providing food to homeless persons living outdoors. The ordinance placed burdensome and costly restrictions on food-sharing and severely limited volunteers’ ability to share food with the City’s homeless population, an integral part of their ministries. Big Heart Ministries Association Inc. v. City of Dallas

“Thanks to the Barbara McDowell Foundation we were able to protect the rights of individuals to share and receive food in accordance with their religious and moral convictions, setting forth a precedent that has helped prevent similar laws elsewhere,” said Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Housing +

The failure to provide adequate subsidized housing for the poor and discrimination in obtaining that housing often necessitates litigation.

The following organizations received grants challenging housing inequality and inadequate living conditions.

Bet Tzedek Legal Services (2014)

Report the successful results of the class action housing suit they brought on behalf of more than four thousand tenants against a large landlord in Fresno, California, alleging deplorable housing conditions, including vermin infestation, mold, collapsed ceilings, lack of heat, and absence of sanitation.  

The parties are awaiting a final hearing on a settlement that has been preliminarily approved by the Court. Neng Vu, et al. v. JD Home Rentals

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Legal Aid Justice Center (2012)

Reports on the results of the class suit they filed on behalf of public housing residents contending that the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority systematically overcharged residents for their utilities. Settlement of the case included direct payments to tenants and led to similar cases in two other Virginia cities. Lewis et al v. Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority et al

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Mississippi Center for Justice (2011)

Filed a successful suit to stop rent increases at a housing project with 250 tenants in the Mississippi Delta. The case settled resulting in lower rents and better maintenance. Lowe v. South Delta Regional Housing Authority

“Having the Barbara McDowell Foundation’s assistance at the end of the case allowed us to effectively represent our clients in the litigation, resulting in a favorable resolution.” Martha Bergmark, President.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

National Housing Law Project (2013)

Reports the successful challenge of practices by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (“USDA”) Rural Development Division which was collecting past due deficiencies from low and moderate-income homeowners in rural areas where there had been a prior foreclosure.  These deficiencies were being collected from homeowners using wage garnishments and the seizure of tax refunds authorized under the Debt Improvement Collection Act. 

Efforts related to the lawsuit resulted in Congressional pressure on the USDA. Under a new policy, the USDA stopped pursuing borrowers for unpaid loan balances after foreclosure if the borrowers were able to demonstrate that they were unable to pay the debt.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Public Interest Law Center (2018)

Reported on the successful results of a class action suit brought against a landlord’s attorney to prevent collection of back rent when the landlord had not complied with Philadelphia law requiring tenants to be provided with a Certificate of Rental Suitability when a lease was signed. Baker v. Ross

The case was successfully settled with payment of damages and the ending of the practice. Thereafter, the Board of Judges of the Philadelphia Municipal Court enacted rules to end this practice by all lawyers, not just the defendant lawyer in the settled case. 

“Through the grant from the Barbara McDowell Foundation we confronted a system that long saw low-income people sued for money they did not owe resulting in a change not only for the class, but for all Philadelphia renters.”  Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, Staff Attorney.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Sargent Shriver National Center of Poverty Law (2017 and 2018)

Was supported by Foundation grants in two separate cases addressing both housing and discrimination. They report the following successful case results: 

2017 Grant

Suit in 2017 against the Alexander County Housing Authority for discrimination in assignment of public housing units based on race, where African Americans were placed in inferior units needing repair.  Paul Lambert v. Alexander County Housing Authority 

While settlement terms are not authorized to be disclosed publicly, the Shriver Center views the settlement to be strong and a positive outcome for their clients and provide a model for advocacy for similar cases across the country. 

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports


2018 Grant

Suit challenging the enforcement of a local “chronic nuisance ordinance” aimed at predominantly African American neighborhoods, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and Illinois Civil Rights Act. Case is set for trial in July 2020.

The lawsuit claims that African Americans face eviction for conduct that does not result in the eviction of whites. Hope Fair Housing Center v. City of Peoria

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Native American Rights +

The poverty of Native Americans, exacerbated by the denial of public benefits and often obscured by their living on a reservation, can result in the denial of their basic constitutional rights such as voting, requiring litigation to end those injustices.

The following grantees were able to leverage Foundation grants to help alleviate injustices against Native Americans.

Native American Rights Fund (2016)

Reported that they successfully challenged North Dakota’s voter identification law which discriminated against Native Americans living on reservations who did not have a qualifying ID such as a driver’s license. Tribal IDs were not permissible if they did not have a permanent physical residential address. A post office box would not suffice.  

An initial suit, Brakebill v. Jaeger, was overturned by the court of appeals.  However, a subsequent suit making similar allegations on behalf of the members of the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes living in North Dakota was successfully settled in February of 2020 after the District Court denied the State’s motion to dismiss. Spirit Lake Tribe v. Jaeger

“The Barbara McDowell grant afforded us the opportunity to give a voice to some of the most vulnerable populations in the country, Native Americans, by assisting them in a political process to which they are absolutely entitled,” said Don Ragona, Director of Development.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (2013)

Filed a successful suit resulting in systemic relief to improve the hearing process for 15,000 participants in the Navaho Nation’s Cash Assistance Program when their benefits were denied or terminated. Prior to the lawsuit no participant had ever received a formal hearing.  Rose Charlie v. Navajo Nation Department of Self Reliance

“Grant funding from the Barbara McDowell Foundation allowed us to resolve critical issues impeding access to cash assistance to families living and working on the Navajo Nation,” said Sovereign Hager, Legal Director.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Prisoners' Rights +

Confinement of prisoners in deplorable conditions, frequently without adequate medical care necessitates litigation to obtain relief.

The following cases have been funded through grants that address the rights of prisoners.

ACLU (National Prison Project) (2011)

Successfully sued the Los Angeles County Jail system alleging severe overcrowding and other unconstitutional conditions. A consent decree was reached in 2014 under which the Jail System had to adopt a detailed plan to reform its use of force policies and practices. Rutherford v. Baca

Implementation of the plan is subject to monitoring by a panel of court appointed experts and federal court enforcement.  In 2015 a federal court granted final approval to the settlement.   

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Florida Institutional Legal Services (2014)

Reported the positive results of their Foundation funded case partnering with other Florida-based justice advocacy organizations in helping inmates with severe and persistent psychiatric disabilities get the treatment they need. The negotiated deal that was the result of a multiyear investigation into several deaths, including suicides, within Florida prisons. 

Under the terms of the settlement the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) will have to provide individually tailored treatments to mentally ill inmates and enact policies that increase the amount of time these inmates spend outside of their cells in therapeutic activities. In addition, the FDC agreed to provide more training to its medical providers and security staff working with mentally ill patients.

“We are honored and fortunate to have received critical support from the Foundation. On behalf of our organization and the many thousands of people who have benefitted from the work made possible by your support, we thank you for the strategic investments you have made in high impact advocacy across the country,” Christopher M. Jones, Executive Director.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Legal Aid Justice Center (2014)

Sued the Virginia Department of Corrections on behalf of women detained in the Fluvanna Correctional Center for poor medical care. The case settled in 2015 but litigation continues over implementation of the settlement. Scott et al v. Clarke et al

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Prisoner’s Legal Services of Massachusetts (2019)

Reported preliminary results in their grant-funded case related to the imprisonment of men, but not women, in Massachusetts for substance abuse even though no crime had been committed, in violation of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

A class was certified and the State began making changes at the prison facility, including not have inmates wear prison uniforms and expanding treatment staff. Settlement discussions continue about closing the facility.  Does I-X v. Commissioner of Corrections

There has been significant media coverage in local and Boston press, PBS News Hour, and The Atlantic.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Texas Fair Defense Project (2016)

Through their grant brought litigation on behalf of persons who were jailed for being unable to pay misdemeanor tickets in violation of their constitutional rights not to be incarcerated because of non-criminal behavior—poverty. Suit was dismissed without prejudice, but settlement discussions resulted in the cessation of the practice. Gonzales et al. v. City of Austin

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Western Center for Poverty Law (2017)

Utilized grant funds to successfully litigate three cases in California where municipalities suspended driver’s licenses of persons not having the funds to pay traffic fines. Rubicon Programs v. Solano County Superior Court, Alvarado v. Los Angeles County Superior Court, and Hernandez v. Department of Motor Vehicles

“Funds from the Barbara McDowell Foundation allowed us to litigate on behalf of thousands of Californians who had their driver’s licenses suspended because they were unable to pay fines related to minor traffic tickets,” Cori Racela, Deputy Director.   

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports






Refugee and Immigration Rights +

Litigation becomes often the only available remedy for those whose constitutional rights are violated when seeking to enter the United States.

Several grantees achieved noteworthy results in cases supporting the rights of refugees and immigrants.

American Immigration Council (2015, 2017, and 2019)

Reported on the results of their three grant-funded cases. 

2015 Grant

Challenged the federal government’s failure to provide thousands of immigrant children nationwide with counsel when trying to deport them in immigration court. F.L.B. v. Barr

While the case was ultimately dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, the fight to ensure that children are not forced into immigration court without the assistance of counsel continues. Supported with the information obtained in F.L.B. about the government’s treatment of unrepresented children in immigration court, the litigation partners continue to raise the issue in individual children’s cases. 

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports


2017 Grant

Discussing settlement after a nationwide class was certified and summary judgment was granted to resolve a claim that the Department of Homeland Security failed to give asylum seekers notice of the one-year statute of limitations to file an asylum claim. Mendez-Rojas v. Johnson

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.


2019 Grant

In another grant funded case, decision is pending on motions for class certification and a preliminary injunction in a case challenging a Homeland Security policy that blocks otherwise eligible noncitizens holding temporary protected status from becoming lawful permanent citizens (green card) through sponsorship by a United States citizen family member.  Moreno v. Nielsen

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (2015, 2016, and 2019)

Received grant funding for a series of cases on behalf of domestic violence survivors from Central American countries seeking asylum in the United States. The results of those cases are below. 

2015 Grant

Moved the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to reconsider its denial of asylum in the case of an indigenous woman who fled Guatemala after suffering severe domestic violence at the hands of her father, as well as her common law husband. Matter of R-P-

They prevailed in the case when, in another asylum case, Matter of A-R-C-G-, the BIA definitively recognizing domestic violence as a basis for asylum for the first time.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports


2016 Grant

In their second grant-funded case, they litigated on behalf of a young Guatemalan domestic violence survivor who sought protection before the Immigration Court in Arizona.  That case, Matter of S-O-, was litigated as a part of a broader strategy, to transform the culture of immigration courts in jurisdictions particularly hostile to asylum seekers.  The immigration judges in Arizona were denying asylum in a staggering 94.9 percent of cases, far out of sync with the national average.

In February 2017, the individual was granted asylum, was reunited with her son, and is beginning her new life in the United States.

“The grant from the Barbara McDowell Foundation was critical to our ability to win protection for our client,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director. Media coverage included stories in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports


2019 Grant

Litigated to reverse former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ June 2018 ruling in the case Matter of A-B-, vacating the previously controlling BIA precedent ruling Matter of A-R-C-G-, which had affirmed the right of domestic violence survivors to seek asylum. The case is still in litigation. 

The Barbara McDowell Foundation’s generous support enabled CGRS to pursue all possible avenues to justice for Ms. A.B. and for the thousands of asylum-seeking women, children, and families impacted by the ruling in her case. Our team remains committed to winning a reversal of Matter of A-B- and restoring asylum protections for domestic violence survivors who turn to the United States for safe haven.” - Blaine Bookey, Legal Director and Counsel for Ms. A.B. 

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2017)

Had many successes from their grant funded cases, including the following positive results:

2012 Grant

Preserved protections for individuals seeking asylum involving gender-or gang-based claims contrary to ICE’s narrow reading of the category, “Particular Social Group,” in the immigration statute.  

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports


2014 Grant

Overturned the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (“ICE”) practice of using directives to local law enforcement to detain alleged noncitizens for pickup by ICE based solely on vague database information without more to support a probable cause determination. Moreno v. Napolitano

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports


2017 Grant

Challenged successfully the constitutionality of ICE’s requests to issue arrest requests based on error-ridden data base used in the Central District of California and entered by ICE’s Pacific Enforcement Response Center. Gonzalez v. ICE

A similar successful result was achieved in interpreting similar statutory language related to a protected group. Gonzalez-Ruano v. Barr

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.


National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (2019)

Reports the successful results in a case brought in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at the Berks County Detention Center. The suit claimed that detained immigrant children suffered serious deprivations related to health services, mental health care, and language access, as well as traumatic night-checks that repeatedly interrupt children’s sleep. 

Families detained at the facility will now be able to file a petition to intervene in the state licensing dispute brought against the detention center and have their voice heard for the first time.  Doe v. Mici

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

North Carolina Justice Center (2016)

Filed suit on behalf of migrant farmworkers not being paid properly by labor contractors who brought foreign workers to fill temporary agricultural jobs. The contractors did not properly report hours worked and required workers to pay the costs of their visas and transportation to the United States. 

The case was resolved and has helped to deter other labor contractors from using similar practices.  Gallegos Gallegos v. Becerra Enterprises 

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Tahirih Justice Center (2011)

The result of their grant funding was in successfully pursuing the case of Maria (a pseudonym), an immigrant woman and survivor of severe domestic violence. Matter of MA

The fact pattern in Maria’s case lent itself to a decisive victory. With the support of the Foundation, Tahirih invested significant resources in preparing and supporting Maria’s case which set legal precedent applicable nation-wide concerning survivors of domestic violence seeking asylum.  

“…the Foundation’s generosity was vital in enabling Tahirih to serve vulnerable immigrant women and girls fleeing violence,” Archi Pyati, Chief of Policy and Communications. 

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.

Voting Rights +

Without equal voting rights, citizens in a free country cannot seek redress of their grievances often necessitating litigation as the only means to establish that right.

The following grantee was able to make significant progress in securing voting rights for prisoners.

Brennan Center for Justice (2011)

As a result of their Foundation grant funding, Brennan Center aided in the defense of a New York State law that was held to be constitutional that had ended the practice of “prison-based gerrymandering”. The law changed the way the State allocated people in terms of their voting for redistricting purposes by counting those in prison in their home communities rather than previously where they were incarcerated. The prior practice distorted demographics to diminish the voting strength of poor and minority communities by counting the votes of prisoners based upon their place of incarceration.  Little v. LATFOR 

Myrna Perez, Director of Voting Rights and Election Programs said, “The Barbara McDowell Foundation’s support was critical in ensuring that we had the resources needed to put forward the strongest arguments in defense of the law ending prison-based gerrymandering in New York State.”

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports

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